Daily Box Office Analysis for August 18, 2008
By David Mumpower
August 19, 2008

Gee, I've never seen Kiefer Sutherland hold a gun before.

There are four new releases in the marketplace this week. So, today's analysis has a little bit of everything. Whether you love Iron Man, George Lucas, Jack Bauer or threesomes, we've got it covered in theaters right now. And Batman remains a big factor despite the fact that the world's greatest detective has been in theaters for five weeks.

This past weekend, Tropic Thunder became a part of box office trivia along the lines of Lost in Space. After The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor failed by $2.2 million and Pineapple Express failed by $2.9 million (despite earning $5.3 million more during its first week), The Dark Knight had been living a charmed life and had taken a mystique of invulnerability. A month at the top of the box office during the summer is huge; five weeks would have been the longest summer streak since The Sixth Sense in 1999. Tropic Thunder became the 2000s answer to Lost in Space, the movie that ended Titanic's run at the top, by delivering a rather emphatic knockout punch to The Dark Knight.

Tropic Thunder earned $25.8 million compared to Batman's $16.4 million over the weekend. For the five day period, the difference was even more dramatic. Since the Ben Stiller/Jack Black/Robert Downey Jr. satire was released into theaters, it had earned $36,845,588 through Sunday. Over that same time period, The Dark Knight made $22,196,066. While many observers (myself included) were disappointed with the five-day performance of Tropic Thunder, beating the number two earner of all time by 66% is no small feat.

With regards to the daily behavior of Tropic Thunder, we chronicled the madness of Pineapple Express last week. That title had a record start, fell 50.5% on Thursday, regained momentum with a 32.1% gain on Friday, fell back 3.1% on Saturday, then virtually matched that number on Sunday before falling 49.8% on Monday, and 14.7% on Tuesday. Tropic Thunder has been nowhere near as erratic. After the comedy's modest $6.5 million debut, it fell a respectable 30.4% on Thursday before spiking huge on Friday with 81.2% growth. That $8.2 million was not its best day of the time frame, either. It increased another 16.7% on Saturday to $9.6 million before experiencing a 16.3% fall on Sunday to $8.0 million. Tropic Thunder's $36.8 million five-day tally is only $4.5 million less than Pineapple Express' $41.3 million, but the way it got there is much less exciting. As such, its behavior moving forward should be much more predictable than the stoner comedy that appears to be frontloaded after all.

Yesterday's box office results bear this out to some degree. Tropic Thunder fell 55.2% to $3,590,742, easily good enough for first place. The Sunday-Monday drop is as average as they come, meaning it is not showing signs of good legs or bad legs. Instead, the comedy is simply do what most opening weekend movies do on their first Monday. The concern here is that Tropic Thunder has a six-day total of $40,436,330 against a budget of somewhere between $100 and $150 million depending upon whether you believe the studio or Newsweek. In short, even if it makes another $40 million from here (and I'm dubious on that), it is unlikely to be earn back its budget domestically. This has to be a disappointment to Paramount, who moved the title back specifically because of Downey's success with Iron Man as well as to give it a chance to breathe far away from the Bat. Results of this decision are mixed at best.

The Dark Knight hasn't been in first place for five consecutive days now. Given that it finished outside the top spot only five times during its first 26 days in release, this is a newsworthy item. The number two film domestically finishes up its first month in theaters in second place with $2,112,206. That gives it a grand total of $473,194,356 in a single month. People always talk about unbreakable box office records and the like. I'm not saying that performance will never be matched as inflation and evolving behavior prevents wise men from using finality in such discussions as these. I will say that I think that this total may prove to be every bit as lasting as Titanic's $600.8 million during its entire domestic run has been. Only one previous film had earned this much money, and it needed 89 days (i.e. almost three full months) to do so.

At this point, Batman Begins Again has earned 78.8% of what Titanic made and needs another $127.7 million to break the record. The odds of this happening during its initial release are roughly the same as my beloved Atlanta Braves making the playoffs. For those of you who don't follow baseball, they are 12 games out of first place with 37 games to play and their top four starters have all had season ending arm surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews. What I'm saying about the Titanic thing is that it's looking bleak.

With regards to Star Wars: the Clone Wars, the news could be better. After earning $6.2 million on Friday, we all expected this title to be heavily frontloaded. A weekend multiplier (opening weekend box office total divided by Friday box office total) of 2.35, however, is nothing short of disastrous for a sub-$20 million opening. The suspicion would be that it is not long for movie theaters, and that was confirmed a bit yesterday with a 60% drop from Sunday. Another $1,366,530 in the coffers gives it a running total of $15,977,803 and a sum as paltry as even $30 million should not be taken for granted. This one appears to be following the X-Files: I Want to Believe playbook for flaming out. Mirrors, which opened $3.4 million lower at $11.2 million, earned $1,171,954 and may catch it as soon as today. It too was down 58.8%, however, so that is far from guaranteed.

Combined box office for the top ten earned $13,690,081 worth of revenue yesterday. We are officially up to the portion of August box office that sucks.